How I taught my daughter to read: Part one

Bismillah,

Some of the sisters have asked me to share the experience of teaching Sumayya to read. For a long time I was thinking I would open a blog and then write in-detail post on this. Since it is not going to happen any time soon lol, I thought I would share a note here. InshaAllah you might find it useful and benefit from it as I have always enjoyed reading and learnt a lot from other moms’ experience who take active role in their children’s learning (not just numeracy/literacy but a broader scale…) I will try to keep this as short as possible inshaAllah :).

First step towards reading is developing the love of reading in a child. There are four practical steps any parent can do for this inshaAllah.

First, it is very important for a child to see adults around him/her enjoy reading be it a book, magazine, newspaper etc. Alhamdulillah we absolutely love reading and read a lot of books. Very often we discuss the great novels we have read with children in the backround. We have been subscribed to a local newspaper and SISTERS magazine. Though I enjoy reading after kids’ bedtime, as and when I get the chance I sit for a shortwhile reading my own things during the day when kids are around. It has been a case often where Sumayya asks why I am smiling or laughing and I say I just read something funny in my book. Or with a sad face I point to a picture in a newspaper and explain the bad news (they always cover the front page with ‘bad news’ in England).

Second thing is having a reading corner with plenty of interesting children’s picture/story books. In one of my comments I have explained where best to buy cheap children’s books in England: library book sales, car boot sales and charity shops. Also if you happen to know friends who would like to get things for your children, you can always establish a habit that they get books for them. Alhamdulillah, my kids’ many great khalas/aunties know our interest for books and have given us lots of books and other early learning items for occasions such as Eid or when they come for a visit/dinner. We use our box room as kids’ library (and changing room too). To this day, they have access to 200+ children’s books in their very own library, Alhamdulillah. Now that the eldest can read, she reads on average 4-5 books a day. Though Safiyya is always asking Sumayya to read to her, Sumayya especially likes reading aloud to Ibrahim a lot. Safiyya cant read yet, but she is getting more and more interested in books and spends a great deal of time in the library (our box room), looking through pictures and retelling the stories that we have read in the past. Alhamdullillah, it is all a blessing from Allah. In addition, I keep one big nappy box full of small board books downstairs in one corner of the reception to read when they are downstairs. i have noticed lately that they were not being exposed to our islamic story books enough. So when I sorted their books the other day, I have put all their Islamic story books in a small book holder (it is like a portable book shelf) and placed it in bedroom. Since then we have been reading the prophets’ stories, seerah stories, goodword books before bedtime. Alhamdulillah, for everything there is a solution :)

Third, make sure you get your child join the library as early as possible. Libraries provide a great books for children in addition to story times, rhyme times, arts/crafts sessions. In England, they have Bookstart Bookcrawl programme to encourage children use the libraries more often and get them used to reading etc. We have joined the library at 8 months, but there is no age limit here. Babies as early as 1 month old can join too. We go on Saturday morning to join the story time, followed by arts/crafts session based on a story. After the activity, they return their books and choose new books to take out. They often choose books independently. However, where I dont agree with the content or pictures, I direct them to choose an alternative. They have been doing BookStart Bookcrawl programme. So with every visit to the library they collect stickers and for every 4 stickers one certificate, for every 2 certificate they earn a prize. So far they have earned a teddy, lots of books, a voucher for a local swimming pool, an educational DVD etc. I am not quite sure how it works at other places within the UK, but do check out inshaAllah. These library sessions have been of great help to give me ideas on what more I can do to stimulate my childrens’ learning and love of books. So, I started doing a follow up activity when we read a new book at home too. One easy and simple follow up activity is do colouring pages. In fact, this has always been our favourite, takes the minimum effort and time. For example, if we read a story about “The snail and the whale”, I quickly print out some colouring pages for snail and whale then ask kids to colour it. When they finish colouring, they will cut around it and paste it on a cardstock. They can then decorate their cut and paste crafts sheet using their stencils around the edges or just by drawing butterflies/lovehearts etc. I mark their finished craft sheet by writing down something like “Well done”, “Excellent” or “Great job”. Thus they could recognise some words like these on their sheet very early.

Fourth, read aloud to children.  If you find it hard to find time to read to a child during the day, then you can always establish the habit of reading at least 1-2 shorter story books at bed time.   It is very important to get their ears used to different sounds, vocabulary and sequencing in the story. These will help them to read more independently later on. I have learnt some great skills of reading aloud to my children. For example, do not jump on to the story straight away. But rather, take time to read what it says on the cover, i.e read the author’s and illustrator’s name. Explain who wrote the book and who drew the pictures. If there is a picture of a caterpillar on the cover, ask them a couple of questions about caterpillars, its colour or what the story might be about. Make sure you follow the print with your finger: top to bottom, from left to right. You can use your child’s finger to do this if one of them is sitting in your lap inshaAllah. And if they get distracted whilst reading, ask them a couple of questions based on previous pages or what might happen next in the story etc. Each child is individual and unique. I have realized more as a mother of 3 and sometimes the differences in their learning styles, habits, character struck me. For instance, Sumayya is never distracted when read aloud and can easily read 5-6 books straight. Safiyya, on the other hand, needs to be entertained and be involved with one of the tips I just mentioned. If I am reading about frogs I ask her “go on you make a frog sound” after another page “you jump like a frog now”. But like I said, since recently she has been reading a lot more books independently and keeps coming to me with new set of books all day long, eager to be read aloud mashAllah. At bedtime, they choose a book each. So we read 2 books and they go to sleep with their books under a pillow. I dont know when/how/why but it has always been an “established” habit to go to sleep with a book, every since I can remember lol. (They wake up really early and often take the books under a pillow and start reading or discussing etc)

So, this was part one of a series of my notes on how I taught my daughter to read. In part two, I share more hands on approach to teaching children how to read and early numeracy with insights into different methods of teaching how to read (Montessori, Doman, phonics etc and what i followed). This note summarizes how we can establish a habit of reading aloud to a child and develop a love of learning in them. Reading is a lifetime skill. Books can introduce us to new people and we can travel the whole world with books, subhanAllah. If we can establish the love for books in our children at young age, inshaAllah they will continue to seek knowledge by reading themselves when older.

PS: Sumayya is now 4 years 7 months and started reading just after she turned 4. Safiyya is now 3 years old and learning phonics and sound-sight recognizing high frequency words. This note is based comletely on my own experience and every situation in every family is different inshaAllah. So, some of the things I said might be just a reminder while others are new. If you find it useful in any way, you may like it, leave a comment or share it inshaAllah. Indeed, we learn a lot more by sharing our experiences.

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